Palestinians shut down a second int’l aid organization to demand action on dying hunger strikers

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Hunger striker Tha’er Halahleh’s father protesting on Thursday, May, 10, 2012 outside of the ICRC building in Ramallah. 

For the second day in a row Palestinians shut down the offices of an international organization in Ramallah, expressing dissatisfaction over a lack of action on behalf of 2500 Palestinians in their fourth week of a hunger strike against conditions of Israeli detention and imprisonment. Families of the dissident prisoners organized today’s action, which follows yesterday’s closure of a United Nations building, also in Ramallah. 

And across the region additional protests were staged at Ofer prison, Megiddo prison, el-Krom, Haifa and Yaffa. 

Protestor outside of the ICRC. (Photo: @occupy2gether)

“We are targeting those who we believe can help to bring an end to the hunger strike and save the lives of our prisoners,” said protester and activist Ahmad, who requested his last name not be used.

After the protesters blocked the entrance of the International Committee for the Red Cross, the aid organization issued a video response.

Elpida Papachatzi, with the ICRC’s protection department for Israel and the occupied territories, addressed protesters’ concerns on camera.

“We ask the detainee authority to transfer actually those detainees who have been on hunger strike for long term without delay.” She continued: “We urgently request the Israeli authorities to allow detainees on long term hunger strike to receive visits from their families.”

Additionally, Papachatzi said the ICRC meets with prisoners on long term hunger strike and after the visits, “we share oral messages with the families of the detainees.” And, “at the end of each visit we share our findings with the Israeli authorities in a confidential and bi-lateral discussion,” said Papachatzi.

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(Photo: @occupy2gether)

At today’s ICRC protest, a group of between 10 and 12 demonstrators were present, including the father of long term hunger striker Tha’er Halahleh, who along with Bilal Diab is now in the 74th day of fast. Both Halahleh and Diab are edging closer to death. In-depth information about their health has not been widely reported, as both hunger strikers have been denied regular visits by independent physicians from Doctors without Borders.

Providing insight on their deteriorating conditions, today the Telegraph published a letter written two days ago by Halahleh, to his family:

To his parents, he wrote: “I salute you from the middle of the battle and from the depth of my suffering. My morale is very high and my will very strong. Do not worry about me.”

Turning to his wife Shireen and his daughter Namer, born a fortnight after his arrest two years ago, he added: “I cannot explain with words my love for you. I do this for the sake of God and my homeland, my wife and my daughter. Take care of her and take care of your health and forgive me that I cannot be there to hug you.”

But in a letter to his lawyer on the same day, he struck a more sombre note, writing that he had lost more than 50lb.

“I have inflammation in my hands. It comes and goes. I’m bleeding in my stomach and from my gums. I have mouth ulcers and my muscles are shrinking — I feel my body has stopped operating normally,” he wrote.

“My excrement is black and I feel very cold. The doctors have been insulting. One told me: ‘I hope you die.'”

Earlier this week, Halahleh and Diab appealed their sentences to an Israeli military judge. The court ruled to extend their detention and re-interrogate both hunger strikers, stating, “hunger strikes are not relevant to decide on length of administrative detention as such.” Without hesitation, activists said the ruling was a “death sentence.” Later that same day reports circulated that both hunger strikers had received an offer from the Israeli authorities to end their imprisonment, conditioned by deportation to Gaza. The Palestine Information Centre (PIC) was notified on the deal through Azzam Diab, brother of Bilal Diab. The PIC reported:

Detainee Azzam Diab, the brother of Bilal, said that he was surprised at the presence of Askalan jail wardens in his cell on Sunday morning. He said that they asked him to go with them to Ramle prison hospital to convince his brother and Halahle to agree to end their strike in return for their deportation to Gaza.

For decades, Israel has used deportation as a mechanism to squash the dissidence of prisoners with rumbling stomachs. During the first Intifada busloads of prisoners, sometimes hundreds were transported over the borders of both Israel and the West Bank into Lebanon.  And in 1992, Israel deposited 400 Palestinians in Lebanon, handing them each $50 and some clothes as they exited their homeland. More recently, former hunger striker Hana Shalabi, whose protest lasted 43 days, was expelled to Gaza upon her release.

Critics of Israel’s deportation policy denounced the practice as a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention, which prohibits moving populations across state lines. Both Halahleh and Diab rejected Israel’s proposal, opting to continue striking against their administrative detention, or imprisonment without charge.

In addition to Halahleh and Diab, six other long-term hunger strikers are in critical condition. They are Hassan Safadi- Day 68 of hunger strike; Omar Abu Shalal; Day 66 of hunger strike; Mohammad Taj; Day 55 of hunger strike_Jaafar Azzedine; Day 51 of hunger strike; Mahmoud Sarsak; Day 50 of hunger strike; Abdullah Barghouti; Day 30 of hunger strike.

Prisoners are demanding their most basic rights from the Israeli authorities, including family visits and an end to solitary confinement, or isolation. There are a total of 19 Palestinian prisoners locked behind iron doors in isolation, including Mahmoud Issa who has spent a decade in solitary confinement. In an unexpected move today, Israeli prison authorities offered to release Issa along with 15 others, from isolation. The terms of their reintroduction into the general prison population are not yet confirmed.

But, for Ahmad who joined the prisoners’ families outside of the ICRC building today, the pressure to release those in isolation did not come from international monitors, rather “all of the pressure came from behind bars.”

About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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15 Responses

  1. Blake
    May 11, 2012, 10:15 am

    Palestinians hunger strike day 74 (1:12)
    (Video transcript) 74 days without food. Two Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, enter day 74 of their hunger strike, which has sparked a mass movement. Another 1,600 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have also stopped taking food since April, demanding an end to administrative detention and more family visits. The Director of Physicians for Human Rights says Halahleh is willing to die for the cause. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ANAT LITVIN, DIRECTOR OF PRISONERS AND DETAINEES DEPARTMENT AT PHYSICIANS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ISRAEL, SAYING: “His doctor told him that his life is in immediate danger and that he could die at any moment and what is very worrisome is the fact that he said that he doesn’t want to be saved if something happens to him and he loses consciousness. He doesn’t want resuscitation.” Earlier in the week Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was pressed to do more to resolve the situation by crowds in Ramallah. There are daily demonstrations in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip in support of the movement. Lily Grimes, Reuters

  2. seafoid
    May 11, 2012, 11:23 am

    UK chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

    Wherever we can save life, we should. That is a longstanding and fundamental proposition of Judaism

    Hypocrisy is the greatest Zionist luxury.

  3. Blake
    May 11, 2012, 11:40 am

    State Department: Protest Israel’s Treatment of Palestinian Political Prisoners

    Please sign this joint petition of the US Campaign and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

    Between 1,600 and 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners are currently on a hunger strike in Israeli prisons protesting their imprisonment, one of the largest mass hunger strikes in history. Two hunger strikers–Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab–have refused food for 73 days and are now facing imminent death in protest of their “administrative detention,” a widely-used Israeli practice of detaining Palestinians without charge.


  4. Blake
    May 11, 2012, 12:10 pm

    I tried posting this on an old article re the red hot chili peppers but think it got missed.

    red hot chili peppers: Cancel your performance in Israel

  5. Fredblogs
    May 11, 2012, 1:21 pm

    “Let’s shut down the people that are helping us for not doing something they have no power to do anyway”. That just doesn’t sound like a good idea. Israel is not going to let terrorists go just because prisoners are threatening slow, painful suicide. OTOH, I could be wrong. Israel is shortsighted when it comes to hostage deals. They always look at the benefits, but never at the downside. So maybe the benefits of not having dead prisoners will outweigh their good sense about not letting terrorists go.

    • American
      May 11, 2012, 2:06 pm

      There is a new movie out Fredblogs you should go see…..”God Bless America- Let’s Kill all the Mean People!’
      If it’s a trend, that irrationality and crass cruelty produces the same in others, it probably means we’re gonna end up killing you off too.

    • Blake
      May 11, 2012, 2:11 pm

      Legitimate resistance is called terrorism? State terror is your MO to keep the meek and patient Palestinians in check. Terrorism is what “Israel” was born out of.

      Now the reality check: Palestinians accept all elements of International law and all UN (United Nations) resolutions on the issue. Israel by contrast, has violated over 60 UN Security Council resolutions and over 200 UN General Assembly Resolutions. Without the USA using its veto power to shield Israel from International law at the UN Security Council , the number would have been doubled.

    • Chaos4700
      May 11, 2012, 6:41 pm

      Israel is not going to let terrorists go

      So you’re convinced all the Palestinians in Israeli detention are terrorists? Even the babies in prison camps? If they’re terrorists, why doesn’t Israel charge them and give them a trial? Isn’t there evidence? What laws have they broken, then? Doesn’t the rights guaranteed in the Israeli Constitution state… that… Whoops! Nevermind.

  6. Les
    May 11, 2012, 1:50 pm

    Oh the temerity to require that NGO’s be accountable to those they claim to be helping! It is just like Haiti.

  7. ahhiyawa
    May 11, 2012, 2:28 pm

    >>>the pressure to release those in isolation did not come from international monitors, rather “all of the pressure came from behind bars.”<<<

    Palestinians are finding the paths to victory by learning how to use the power of the weak against the strong, which isn't solely rooted in guns and suicide bombers.

    • seafoid
      May 11, 2012, 3:45 pm

      I think it’s the power of the weak versus the stupid . Israel has never understood power.

      • Chaos4700
        May 11, 2012, 6:42 pm

        On the contrary, Israel understands power quite well. It’s moral conviction that they refuse to acknowledge.

  8. seafoid
    May 12, 2012, 6:02 am

    Israel would be a stable country with strong diplomatic relationships with Europe and the countries of the Middle East if it were able to use its power efficiently. Instead it depends on the Christian Zionists and a lobby of Jews in the US. That’s not sustainable.

  9. OlegR
    May 13, 2012, 9:42 am

    all administrative detainees if they indeed pose a danger should be deported to Gaza.
    Personally i don’t like this measure or any other clever British Mandate trick that
    we still unfortunately use because they are convenient.

    Regarding convicted prisoners on hunger strikes especially murderers
    i can only quote Margaret Thatcher “Mr. Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to take his own life. It was a choice that his organisation did not allow to many of its victims”

  10. gamal
    May 13, 2012, 6:21 pm

    “we still unfortunately use because they are convenient.” i mean you are obviously an under cover brother from jenin,

    bobby sands was given a ridiculous sentence i believe life, he wrote a song “i wish i was back home in derry” performed by christy moore, he was convicted of having an unloaded hand gun in a protestant state where catholics enjoyed only limited rights by both formal and informal discrimination, their achievement of legal parity with their protestant co citizens concluded an uninterrupted 8 hundred struggle for the full rights of citizenship in their native land of the indigenous irish people, sands death and that of 10 others was the beginning of the end for protestant formal dominance of the state an inconvenience no doubt to some.

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